“Human dignity and social cohesion: youth policy responses to violence”
(To be checked against delivered speech)
Friday 23 September 2005
Allow me to start with a very short journey into the past: in 1990, shortly after its accession to the Council of Europe, the Hungarian Government offered to host what was called at the time “The Second European Youth Centre”. From that moment on, the political, financial and social machinery was set in motion, leading to the creation of a new European Youth Centre in a country of Central and Eastern Europe. The ideal of unity across the European continent was given a powerful tool to transform political goodwill into reality.
In October 1995, the European Youth Centre in Budapest opened for an initial pilot phase of three years and for the first training activity of many others which were to follow. These activities provide an opportunity for young people to work with each other and learn from each other. The Centre is a school for democracy and human rights.
However, the Centre also offers other opportunities for contact and co-operation. During my time as a member of the Parliamentary Assembly, I took part in several meetings and activities organised at the Centre with the participation of parliamentarians, civil servants and non-governmental organisations.
In 1998, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers unanimously recommended that the Centre should become a permanent institution of the Council of Europe. This was a sign of recognition and support for the long-standing approach of the Council of Europe to young people as policy-makers, not only as policy-consumers.
Ladies and gentlemen, many of you here - and many people who could not be with us tonight - have provided support and invested a great deal of energy into making the Centre what it is today: a widely respected place for intercultural dialogue, human rights and citizenship education. I should like to express my gratitude to you for what you have done so far and for what you will help us to do in the future.
The motivation and competence of the staff of the Centre are one of its strongest assets, and I should like to pay tribute to them and encourage them to continue with their excellent work.
Finally, I want to pay a special tribute to the Hungarian authorities for their unwavering political and financial support for the Centre, spanning over a decade and – a fact which is also remarkable – four consecutive governments.
Minister Göncz, I should like to thank you and your colleagues for such a beautiful birthday present - the renovations carried out during the summer. I assure you that we shall do our utmost to make the programmes match the quality standards you have set with this impressive investment. Next year, the Centre and the human rights education programme will play a prominent role in the European Youth Campaign on Diversity, Human Rights and Participation, which is due to be launched as a result of the Final Declaration of the Warsaw Summit.
Thank you all for being here to celebrate our common European achievement. I wish you an enjoyable evening.